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A-I – general patronage


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A classic tale for the whole family

“Cinderella” (Disney) injects vibrant new life into a venerable fairy tale. The result is an exuberant live-action retelling of the oft-filmed fable, the most famous screen version of which is Disney’s classic 1950 animated feature.

Opting for fidelity and sincerity rather than a revisionist approach, director Kenneth Branagh sticks to the basic story, displaying genuine affection for its iconic characters. Familiar yet fresh, his delightful take, suitable for the entire family, nicely brings to the forefront dual lessons about compassion and forgiveness.

There’s a lot of death in the Cinderella story, but here that aspect of the tale is treated gently. Ella (Lily James) tends to her dying mother (Hayley Atwell), whose final request to her is, “Always have courage and be kind.” This becomes Ella’s life motto – and not a bad one at that. Her sunny nature and good will inspire all creatures, great (fellow humans) and small (white mice).

When her beloved father (Ben Chaplin) remarries, Ella’s patience is put to the test, but she never gives in to the dark side. The same, alas, cannot be said for Ella’s stepmother, Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett), or her shrieking stepsisters, Drizella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger).

The ladies are ghastly in every respect, from their poor manners to their garish outfits. And anyone who calls her cat Lucifer, as Lady Tremaine does, is bound to be wicked.

The standard narrative unfolds: Father dies, and Ella is reduced to waiting on her obnoxious relations in the manner of a servant. Covered in ashes from cleaning the fireplace, she's derisively dubbed “Cinderella.”

Riding her horse through the forest one day, Cinderella encounters Kit (Richard Madden), aka Prince Charming. They meet cute but confused, she unaware of his royal status, he not catching her name. Cinderella retreats, and the prince, his heart aflame, vows to find the enchanting maiden.

A royal ball is arranged, with an invitation to all eligible ladies in the kingdom, titled or not. Lady Tremaine forbids Cinderella to attend, tearing her dress to pieces.

Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter), naturally, has other ideas. The transformation of pumpkin, mice, lizards and a goose into a golden coach, white horses, footmen and driver, respectively, is one of the highlights of the film.
The other standout is Cinderella’s shimmering blue dress. Not since Scarlett O’Hara made an outfit from old curtains in “Gone with the Wind” has a skirt stolen the show to such an extent, swishing and swirling across the dance floor as though possessing a mind of its own.

While there are a few twists in store, a happy ending is assured, and the final message won’t leave a dry eye in the house.

Preceding “Cinderella” is a short animated film, “Frozen Fever,” featuring characters from the blockbuster 2013 movie “Frozen.” It’s Princess Anna’s (voice of Kristen Bell) birthday, and her sister, Queen Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel), is planning a party – despite feeling unwell. Given Elsa’s frost-producing proclivities, as highlighted in the original, however, her sneezes bring predictably chilly consequences.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-I – general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

By Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service 

‘Do You Believe?’

A-II – adults and adolescents


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Well-meaning Christian themes may leave viewers unmoved

Inertia is the tendency to remain unchanged, or a lack of activity when activity is wanted or needed.

Inertia also has application to movie themes. Recently, Pure Flix Entertainment released “Do You Believe?” From the creators of “God’s Not Dead,” the film features a cast noteworthy for past success, among them: Mira Sorvino (“Mighty Aphrodite”), Sean Astin (“Rudy,” “Lord of the Rings”), Cybill Shepherd (“Moonlighting”) and Lee Majors (“The Six Million Dollar Man,” “The Fall Guy”). It is set in contemporary Chicago within sight of an illuminated cross, and shares a story about a collection of characters whose lives are transformed by the cross.

Yet a case of cinematic inertia can be detected as the movie pursues many predictable plotlines, ones long near and dear to the hearts of evangelical audiences. It opens with a man on the street carrying a wooden cross, challenging passersby to their spiritual core with his words and actions. A pastor, after unexpectedly observing the man himself, speaks movingly about the cross before a congregation whose heads shake in affirmation as their hands hold up smaller crosses. Admirable works follow, all flowing from newfound faith – an infertile married couple adopts the newborn child of a teenage mother who courageously chose life over abortion; individuals assist each other as they overcome traumas that include coming home from the frontlines of war, family abandonment, criminal pasts, even terminal illness; a husband and wife, grieving for years over a daughter lost to a drunk driver, rediscover joy after taking a homeless widower and her daughter into their home.

Despite following such narrow narratives that that will likely engage only the ardent Christian viewer, the movie opens up the plot somewhat to more a contemporary theme. This comes in the form of a debate between Bobby, an EMT (played by Liam Matthews) and his wife, Elena, an ER nurse (played by Valerie Domíguez). Young spouses working overtime to make financial ends meet for their family, they face a lawsuit brought against Bobby for proselytizing to a dying man while on duty, and struggle with one another about how to proceed. Should they stand up for their faith and, by extension, for religious freedom in the workplace, or back down for financial reasons? Although a ruthless attorney (played by Andrea Logan White) wins a guilty verdict, the Bobby/Elena story ends where viewers leaving the theater can surely begin deep conversations about faith: with the couple together, on their knees and holding hands in the hospital chapel, sure in their faith but very unsure what future events will hold.

Despite some flaws the movie has a good heart and a solid Christian message. What does the cross really mean, and what are you going to do about it? These are timeless questions central to Christianity. In our day, faced with health care mandates and legal assaults to our religious freedoms, they also are questions that emerge with new urgency. “Do You Believe?” bluntly addresses such timeless and timely topics. The message is meant to move us, even within the cinematic inertia.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-II – adults and adolescents (due to some action violence and mature references, including to abortion). The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. 

By Jason Godin, associate editor of Fathers for Good.

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (March 2015)

The first symbol after each title is the Catholic News Service classification. The second symbol is the rating of the Motion Picture Association of America.
CNS classifications: A-I – general patronage; A-II – adults and adolescents; A-III – adults; L – limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling; O – morally offensive.

MPAA ratings: G – general audiences. All ages admitted; PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children; PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13; R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian; NC-17 – no one 17 and under admitted.

American Sniper, A-III (R)
Annie, A-II (PG)
The Awakening, A-III (R)
Begin Again, A-III (R)
Black or White, A-III (PG-13)
Blackhat, A-III (R)
The Boy Next Door, O (R)
Dream House, L (PG-13)
The DUFF, A-III (PG-13)
Edge of Tomorrow, A-III (PG-13)
Exodus: Gods and Kings, A-III (PG-13)
Fifty Shades of Grey, O (R)
The Gambler, L (R)
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, A-II (PG-13)
Hot Tub Time Machine 2, O (R)
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, A-II (PG-13)
The Imitation Game, A-III (PG-13)
Inherent Vice, O (R)
Interstellar, A-III (PG-13)
Into the Woods, A-III (PG)
Jupiter Ascending, A-III (PG-13)
Kingsman: The Secret Service, A-III (R)
The Last Exorcism Part II, L (PG-13)
The Last of Robin Hood, L (R)
The Lazarus Effect, A-III (PG-13)
The Loft, O (R)
McFarland, USA, A-II (PG)
Million Dollar Arm, A-III (PG)
Mortdecai, A-III (R)
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, A-II (PG)
Paddington, A-II (PG)
Penguins of Madagascar, A-I (PG)
Project Almanac, A-III (PG-13)
The Pyramid, A-III (R)
Selma, A-III (PG-13)
Seventh Son, A-II (PG-13)
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, A-I (PG)
Still Alice, A-III (PG-13)
Strange Magic, A-I (PG)
Taken 3, A-III (PG-13)
Top Five, O (R)
The Trip to Italy, A-III (not rated)
Unbroken, A-III (PG-13)
The Wedding Ringer, O (R)
The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death, A-II (PG-13)

Copyright (c) 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops